A meeting of young Estonians living abroad brought much laughter and new acquaintances
On 29 June, a meeting of young Estonians living abroad took place at the Apollo Cinema (Coca-Cola Plaza) in a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. The event was organised by the Integration Foundation.
At the event, young people were introduced to different ways of keeping in touch with Estonia, thereby contributing to the promotion of Estonian culture around the world. There was a lot of joy and moments of recognition from meeting Daniel Levi Viinalass, who shared his story about arriving in Estonia and performed his own immersive music on the guitar. The evening ended with everyone eating popcorn and watching the domestic film Vee Peal.
Young compatriots were encouraged to find their own version of Estonia – be it applying for a scholarship for university studies in Estonia, participating in a camp on the Estonian language and culture or, if they wish, completing military service. All of the necessary information about the different possibilities can be found on the website of Global Estonian, where you can also find a lot of exciting news about what is happening in Estonian society.
The aim of the spirited and information-rich event was to encourage young people to keep in touch with their roots. ‘The goal of everything we do is to keep Estonia’s door wide open for young people,’ said Marin Mõttus, Ambassador at Large for Global Estonians at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, encouraging young people to discover different opportunities.
It was nice to see that the event served its purpose and brought young people together. Many bright eyes could be seen at the snack table and active storytelling could be heard during coffee breaks. For example, Estonians Emma-Brit and Rebecka, who live in Finland, met for the first time at the event, but both often visit Estonia. Neither of the girls was previously familiar with the Global Estonian website or the possibilities it offers. ‘Three Estonians came to my class in Finland by chance, but now our communication has come to somewhat of a standstill,’ said Emma-Brit, expressing hope that she would meet more of her peers thanks to the new opportunities. Rebecka also admitted that with her northern neighbours, her circle of acquaintances is comprised mostly of Finns, so it was cool to get to know Emma-Brit. The girls were brought to Tallinn by the XIII Youth Song and Dance Celebration ‘Holy is the Land’, which they attended this time as spectators.
The Song Celebration also brought 10-year-old Heidi who was born in Sweden to Tallinn to meet young compatriots with her mother. Heidi, who participated in the Song Celebration as part of the Stockholm Estonian Children’s Choir, was excited in anticipation of the arrival of the festive day, because it was the girl’s first Youth Song Celebration festival. However, Heidi and her mother admitted that their contact with Estonia and Estonian culture is very frequent and natural. ‘We usually spend 4–5 weeks in Estonia each summer and our language spoken at home is also Estonian, so it is very good and easy to come here.’
Daniel Levi’s recommendation to preserve Estonian culture
Judging by the laughter and solidarity of the audience, the highlight of the event was the meeting with musician Daniel Levi Viinalass, who told the story of his move from America to Estonia and performed his works characterised by their engaging rhythm.
Daniel was born in Columbus, Ohio, into the family of an Estonian father and an American mother. The musician remembers from childhood the community of Estonians who would meet on a regular basis, but for him, a greater connection with Estonia began when he moved here as a first-grader. ‘I remember there was no long period of adaptation and I was immediately enrolled in school. I didn’t speak Estonian yet and as the other students were small, they didn’t speak English. So, in the first weeks I had a block of paper and markers with me and drew pictures to communicate with my classmates. The will to communicate was so great that I didn’t let the language barrier interfere with me and I did it through pictures,’ the musician recalled.
When asked by Daniel what it’s like to position himself as a child coming from a multicultural family, Viinalass admitted that it is undoubtedly a source of wealth that broadens one’s personality in every possible way, but depending on the company and events, there is also a shake-up to one’s identity. ‘When the Song Festival takes place, I always think that I am Estonian and I will remain Estonian,’ chuckled Levi, humming along to a much beloved tune, adding that it is still powerful to celebrate American Independence Day together with his family and friends on the fourth of July. This and Thanksgiving are annual traditions celebrated with gatherings at the home of Daniel’s parents.
Returning to the Song Celebration, Daniel admits that patriotic songs are the most beautiful music ever and the Song Celebration itself is an event that unites – he, too, has sung together under the singing arch with his father and brothers. ‘The beauty of participating in and attending a Song Celebration is that through songs and being together, you begin to appreciate the story of Estonians in a different way – where we have come from, how far we have come, and where we are heading next.’
It is music that Daniel sees as the key to maintaining Estonian culture. ‘Create a playlist of the songs by your favourite Estonian artists and keep an eye on their activities. Music always tells a story. If you follow what is happening in music, it could also reflect the current situation in Estonia. Listen to the music,’ the suggestion rang out.
Dear young compatriot, check out additional information about finding your Estonia on the Global Estonian website https://globalestonian.com/et/noored or review the information leaflet presented at the event at the address https://integratsioon.ee/leia-oma-eesti.